“When Johnny strikes up the band, Johnny strikes up the band” Warren Zevon.
Johnny is frankly a little dishevelled. His shirt is in his hands sheltering his beer, which he gulps at 9:00 am. Both bare chested and faced he barks at the “moon”. Cockeyed and hair askew. At times mumbling incoherently to himself, at others here and maybe not. Generally roaring at the gathered mass at Union Square.
This square is a place for excellent people watching. Some sad- America should hang its head in shame for the treatment of their mentally ill and homeless citizens- but all colourful. I surreptitiously sidle up to Johnny. A distance of about a metre to avoid a stray arm and time to move fast “should the circumstances dictate”.
We are soon approached by two of San Fran’s “finest”. In the interests of accurate reporting, Johnny is. I just have to be sitting close.
“You doin’ ok man” enquires the man in blue. His colleague stealthily readies a canister at the rear of his packed belt.
“Just fine officer. Thank you for keeping us all safe” Johnny very impressively responds
“Thanks, but it appears you’ve been trippin’. You been takin’ your meds?” They’ve been through this deal more than once.
“No, no man, I’m good. Just dealin’ with a tragic loss” Johnny smartly deflects.
The “pill street blues” mosey on.
Following this exchange I feel confident to make more personal contact. Johnny relishes it.
He advises that he is not in a good place. He can’t sleep nor stay at home. “My mind keeps goin’ and goin’. Can’t turn the fucker off”. Seems his best friend has just overdosed…he points to his forearm and feigns a plunging syringe by way of explanation. The memorial is in two days. He openly discusses a respectful, very sad, service. I offer both condolences and best wishes.
Johnny then provides a sweeping journey through his life. I’m impressed.
He has played Rugby for the American youth team. He shows me the ugly scar across his clavicle as evidence. He even went to Australia and played and was “honoured” to have seen the Wallabies play The British Lions in Sydney. We discuss Aussie Rules and Australian women. He is cogent, entertaining, engaging and fun as we free wheel through life and views. Something about books and covers should go in here.
He outlines his personal manifesto: “I only stand for three things, freedom, guns and fucking”. As Meat Loaf was drawn to opine: “Two out of three ain’t bad”.
Now you can believe this or not, Johnny then turns , faces me eye to eye and enquires: “what do you think of Trump?”. Now it might have been the recent gesticulating and conversing with those not physically there, the visit from the police or the mention of guns, but I go all coy and just a little evasive from my normal self. My weasel words flow: “Seems to me you’re country has some significant challenges”.
This appears Johnny’s cue. He jumps to his feet (I remain seated so as to not inflame proceedings).
“I love him”
“About time we had one like him”
“Don’t give a fuck for anyone else. No Obama shit of helping other countries. About time we just looked after our own interests.”
“He looks after us”
I enquire as to “us”.
Johnny is on a roll. He waves his hands expansively, face full of life, feet placed on the figurative soap box, voice approaching a roar.
“Us? White people. I don’t give a fuck for the blacks, yellow people, refugees, people who don’t like how they been born, other nations and people. Not one fuck”
Impressed by how definitively and energetically he has defined the presidents policies, I am drawn to ask a question I have asked repeatedly on this trip………….but only when he triumphantly returns to his seat.
“Are you worried about being isolated from the rest of the world?”
This appears to have taken Johnny unawares. He pauses. He muses. He finally responds:
“Naaaa. That’s his (the coiffured one I’m thinking) problem”
Johnny’s trippin’ again.